'This is the End'
Columbia Pictures 2013

The latest cinematic satirical look at the apocalypse, This is the End, comes from the narcissistic angle of Hollywood stars playing themselves, or at least caricatures of themselves, as they deal with the end of the world by getting high and exuding childish humor as if it were just another day on the playground. Some of this is funny, but it’s mostly just pretentious and inane.

Writer/director Seth Rogen along with his cohort Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express), and together with their actor friends, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson, apparently think that their fans are interested in how they might comically react to the ‘end of days.’ I applaud Rogen and crew for having the money and resources to indulge themselves in this juvenile fantasy, but I don’t think that their concept it’s going to work beyond the circle of buddies who star in the film.

Based on a 2007 short film, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, the expanded This is the Endfeature begins with Mr. Rogen meeting his pal Jay (Baruchel) at the LAX Airport for a visit that involves catching up by playing video games and smoking dope (oh, and a huge corporate promo for theCarl’s Jr. fast-food restaurant.) After a day of this, Seth convinces a reluctant Jay they should visit James Franco, who is hosting a housewarming party at an elaborate mansion he’s built of his own design.

A plethora of stars are on hand for the party and the film has cameos by Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Channing Tatum, the pop star Rihanna, and a very obnoxious Michael Cera. Crazy out-of-character (one would hope) wackiness ensues until Jay, who is understandably uncomfortable with many of Seth’s new friends, goes out for some cigarettes. Apparently in a house filled with every conceivable vice, he still must go to the corner convenience store for smokes.

While Seth and Jay are out to the store a major earthquake strikes and afterwards bystanders begin being lifted into the heavens by beams of blue light. The panicked pair fight their way through the ensuing chaos back to Franco’s where the party is still going, completely oblivious to the apocalyptic events outside.

Jay tries to explain to the partygoers that the prophesized end of the world is upon them, but he is just laughed at until the partiers go outdoors and see their city aflame. The ground opens up and swallows everyone but Rogan and his friends, who then hole up in Franco’s mansion while the world dies around them and demonic beasts walk the Earth.

The group of friends must fight to survive and attempt to redeem themselves so that they can hopefully be transported to heaven before they die. The premise is quite possibly the most elaborate set-up ever for what is basically a series of “jokes” involving masturbation and vomiting.

The film incorporates everything from demon possession, to roaming bands of marauders, to an insane surprise finale that I won’t mention here, but that anyone who is familiar with 90s music is sure to enjoy. There’s nothing really new in this movie, it’s just Rogen and his pals trying to one-up Adam Sandler and his cadre of crude comedians. That the actors play “themselves” in this movie is just a gimmick to try and make this material appear fresh.

Although Rogen and friends try, it’s not really possible to be self-effacing while starring in a fantasy film about yourself. Despite the vulgar humor and endless inside jokes, This is the End does have a few clever gags, but this movie was made to entertain Rogen, his buddies and his die-hard fans – in that order – and as I am not a part of either of those groups, I found this movie mildly entertaining at best. Grade: 5/10

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